Friday, May 19, 2023

Windham triathlete to represent U.S. at world finals in Spain

By Ed Pierce

Known as one of the most grueling athletic competitions ever conceived, those who compete in the Ironman Triathlon are tested by a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run completed in that order for a total of 140.6 miles. Many of the top Ironman competitors internationally will gather for the 2023 World Triathlon Olympic finals in Pontevedra, Spain in September and among those elite athletes will be Dr. Denise Allen of Windham.

Dr. Denise Allen of Windham will compete in the 2023
World Triathlon Olympic finals in Pontevedra, Spain in
September as a first-time member of Team USA. She picked
up the sport after being involved in an accident 10 years ago.
Allen qualified as a participant for Team USA at the USAT Nationals in Milwaukee Wisconsin in August 2022 and it will be her first time competing as a member of Team USA.

How she came to be involved in Ironman and Triathlon competitions in the first place is an unusual story though.

“In 2013, I was hit by an SUV in Windham while out on a long training ride. The crash left me with a fractured sacrum, multiple soft tissue injuries and a mild traumatic brain injury,” Allen said. “After weeks in the hospital, months of brain rehab, surgery, and years of physical therapy, I was ready to race competitively again in 2020. The pandemic pushed pause on that plan but provided an opportunity to amplify joy in sport. In 2022, I launched an aggressive race season, resulting in the title of Ironman All World Athlete, qualifying for and racing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah, as well as qualifying for Team USA.”

Born in Portland, Allen grew up on her family’s farm in West Cumberland, learning the core values of working hard, doing what you love and being of service to others at a young age. Her extended family still maintains the original Allen Farm off Swett Road in Windham. U.S. Marine Corp Sgt., Jim Allen, the first Windham resident killed in action during World War II and for whom the Field-Allen School was named, is a distant relative.


She’s lived in Windham for the past 14 years. Previously, Allen graduated from Greely High School in Cumberland in 1989 and attended Columbia University in New York City, where she earned a Doctorate degree in Health Education specializing in health behavior and positive psychology. Allen has spent 25 years active duty as a call company and paid per diem national registry paramedic, and a ProBoard certified firefighter for the Towns of Windham, Naples, Cumberland, Falmouth. She’s wrapping up her 29th year as a National Board-Certified Health and Science Educator for students in grades 7 to 12 with 25 of those years teaching at Greely High School and four years as an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer and Wellcoach.

Originally a marathon runner who competed in multiple Boston Marathons, Allen transitioned to triathlons in 2010 and that’s how she came to be involved in Ironman competitions.

“I compete in all triathlon distances, but prefer long course triathlon,” Allen said. “I have completed three full Ironmans, 15 half-Ironmans, and numerous sprint and Olympic- distance races. I am currently focusing on the 70.3 (half-Ironman) triathlon distance of 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run. The 70.3 distance allows for work-life balance, and I can be competitive.”

She said that triathlon training is her keystone habit because it sets in motion a series of other health enhancing behaviors such as nutrition, sleep, and time spent outside.

“Training promotes the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters create the biology of joy that enables me to show up as my best self in work and with friends and family,” Allen said. “The most challenging aspect is time management. I often say work gets in the way of my workouts. Time training for a triathlon is the equivalent of a part-time job. Sometimes it's hard to find a balance. On those days I have to give myself the grace to say, ‘training may not be what I want today, but it's ‘good enough.’ I’ve learned to embrace the 80/20 rule when life gets busy and to complete 80 percent of the training goals for the week. The key to getting results is consistency and commitment to the small stuff and these two behaviors are not mutually exclusive. It is generally the attention to this small stuff, such as strength, physical therapy exercises, nutrition, and ice baths that help to keep me consistent in my training.’”

According to Allen, before her bike accident, she would have said that running was her favorite and her top strength of the three disciplines, but post-accident, ironically, biking has become her genuine strength as she is an average swimmer.

“80 percent of my training is completed on a treadmill, in a pool, and on a bike trainer,” she said. “It’s safer inside. Training inside means that I can focus on the workout, the metrics, and nutrition without the worry of getting hit by a distracted or agitated driver.”


Now in training for the 2023 World Triathlon Olympic finals in Spain, Allen starts each day at 3:30 a.m. completing her morning workouts in her basement before work.

“After work there may be a second workout,” she said. “I complete mobility exercises every day with strength and conditioning two to three times a week. Weekends are for long workouts and double or ‘brick’ workouts. I try to get outside on my bike before everyone gets on the roads. Windham roads are very busy, and many do not have bike or pedestrian-designated lanes. Fortunately, my peak training occurs during summer vacation, giving me the flexibility to train with others and in different locations.”

The seed of her passion for an athletic lifestyle was planted in Allen at a young age, growing up on the family farm.

“Farm life gave me a strong sense of why functional health and fitness are so important and an abundant appreciation for nature. I was my absolute happiest running around barefoot in nature. This passion fueled my participation in cross-country running in middle and high school,” she said. “Later, this same passion inspired me to explore studies in natural sciences, health education, health behavior and positive psychology. These studies put into context what I had inherently known since childhood: an active, natural-life style is medicine that heals, facilitates joy, and promotes longevity.”

She says she’s excited to travel to Spain representing the U.S. in the 2023 World Triathlon Olympic finals. The athletes who will represent the U.S. in Spain have to pay their own expenses, and so Allen is now actively raising funds for travel, lodging, bike transport, uniforms, nutrition, insurance, and the Team USA and World Triathlon fees. Anyone wishing to help can contact Allen at drdeniseallen@gmail. com for a link about how to contribute, as a gofundme has been set up. Search Team USA - Triathlete to find the link. People can also follow her journey to Spain on Instagram at drdeniseallen.

But most of all, Allen says she’s grateful to have the opportunity to compete.

The triathlon community is full of high frequency humans that inspire me. It works because we share a similar training and sleep schedule, early to bed, early to rise,” she said. “Racing is an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and make new friends. I have met so many amazing people during my travels. I am inspired by all of them. I also love exploring and racing in the variety of natural landscapes.” <

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